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Full text of "My Country And My People"

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are now gratuitously fed by their children, as if they had not
done their bit in bringing up the young in their prime of life!
Or else, these old men of the West are continually shouting to
people that they are still young in spirit, which of course
makes them look ridiculous. No well-bred Chinese would
gratuitously offend an old man, just as no well-bred Western
gentleman would intentionally offend a lady. Some of that
fine feeling is now gone, but a great part of it still remains in
most Chinese families. That accounts for the poise and serenity
of old age. China is the one country in which the old man is
made to feel at ease. I am sure this general respect for old age
is a thousand times better than all the old-age pensions in the

On the other hand, this theory of differentiated status has
brought about privilege, always charming to the privileged
classes and, until recently, also to their admirers. While the
respect for old age is unquestionably good, the respect for
scholars and officialdom is both good and bad. The social
acclaim of the "literary wrangler," the first man in the im-
perial examinations, was something to touch a mother's heart,
and many a maiden's, too. There he was, mounted on a white
horse, personally decorated by the Emperor, parading the
streets as the first and cleverest scholar of the land, a veritable
Prince Charming, for it was important, too, that the first
scholar should look handsome. Such was the glory of being
a distinguished scholar, and such was the glory of being a
mandarin official. Whenever he went out, a gong sounded
announcing his coming, and yamen1 servants cleared the way,
brushing the passers-by away like so much dirt. The yamen
servants had always been invested with part of their master's
power and glory. What though they accidentally maimed or
killed a man or two!

One cannot read old Chinese novels without coming upon
such a scene. We do not call it power and glory; we call it
"glowing fire and lapping flames," glorious as a conflagration.
The yamen servants* only worry was that they might come
across another train belonging to an official of higher rank
(for so works the Doctrine of Status), which would dampen

1 Yamen is the headquarters of an official.